Four More Bernankes

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- As Ben Bernanke prepares his exit as Federal Reserve chairman, it's clear what his legacy will be.

"Helicopter Ben," as his derisive nickname implies, found a way to effectively deal with economic challenges that defied political leaders, using only monetary policy.

It's an approach that's becoming increasingly popular as central bankers become key to maintaining the economies of all America's biggest trading partners. Instead of calling for four more years, you might call for "Four More Bernankes."

Great Britain, iPath GBP/USD Exchange Rate ETN ( GBB), is the most obvious example. Faced with a Conservative government that, like our Republicans, sees austerity as the cure for the economy, the Bank of England plans to assure borrowers that they will have low, low interest rates until their economy improves.

The Bernanke plan in this case is led by Mark Carney, a Canadian given credit for shielding that country from the worst of the Great Recession. Before entering government service in 2004, he was with Goldman Sachs.

While insisting he's no Bernanke, Carney is nevertheless doing a very Bernanke-like thing, coupling interest rates as low as 0.5% with an unemployment target, in this case 7%, as the London Telegraph's live blog attests. The hope, as with the Federal Reserve's QE program, is that low interest rates will spur business activity and hiring.

Meanwhile, in India (INRUSD), Bernanke is named Raghuram Rajan. He's a former IMF economist who warned of the approaching U.S. financial crisis as early as 2003, and the new head of the Reserve Bank of India.

India faces a credit crunch, engineered by Rajan's predecessors through a rise in interest rates. He portrays himself as "pro-growth" and needs to protect the value of the rupee and, as with Bernanke, do things the government itself is unwilling or unable to do, according to the Economic Times of India.

This idea of central banker as superman comes directly from the American experience where price stability is no longer the only goal, but growth and employment also factor into the equation.

Japan, iPath JPY/USD Exchange Rate ETN ( JYN), under the Bank of Japan's Haruhito Kuroda, is unique among the group in having a growth-happy political leadership, under Shinzo Abe, who recently won full control of his nation's parliament.

But Kuroda, too, is expected to use monetary policy to offset any mistakes by political leaders, stimulating the economy, and increasing inflation, to reduce the yen's value in the face of a rise in sales tax, as the Japan Times reports.

Kuroda must do this against the backdrop of a public debt that dwarfs that of the United States, at more than two times its gross national product.

China (CNYUSD), too, is trying to inject liquidity, lowering borrowing costs in an effort to keep the current slowdown there from accelerating.

Unlike his superhero colleagues, Zhou Xiaochuan has been at his post since 2002, and was just re-appointed. The South China Morning Post reported recently he's looking into engaging directly in foreign currency exchanges, making China more of a player in the currency reserve system.

Injecting China, with its $3.5 trillion in dollar-denominated reserves, into the currency exchange system means there will be a new face at the monetary poker table. And his aim will be to make a profit, not just stimulate his own economy.

If the world's Bernankes can get along, and manage the world economy through the mismanagement of political leaders, we will have truly entered a new age. It's something worth considering that the economy is too important to be left to politicians.

At the time of publication the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and a tech reporter since 1982. His specialty has been getting to the future ahead of the crowd, then leaving before success arrived. That meant covering the Internet in 1985, e-commerce in 1994, the Internet of Things in 2005, open source in 2005 and, since 2010, renewable energy. He has written for every medium from newspapers and magazines to Web sites, from books to blogs. He still seeks tomorrow from his Craftsman home in Atlanta.

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